Patton's Cave vs Cabin Fever
On Friday the 21st I set out on an adventure with Doug Miller, Matt Miller and JR Wilson to make the hike from the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area near Lake Monroe for Patton’s Cave. We set this trip up a week in advance having no idea that this would be the coldest day of the year at -4 degrees when we left Terre Haute.
We made a stop for big breakfast in Spencer that was satisfying, and then drove on to Bloomington. After parking in the Hoosier Forest we headed down the snow covered trail making fresh tracks in the snow down the trail. It looked on the map to be roughly 4 miles, but the cave itself if off the regular trail so no idea exactly how far it was. Just following the trail was a bit of a trick with roughly 5 inches of fresh snow. Yeah, it was cold, but after about a mile I was fairly comfortable. Going was slow but we were all suffering with cabin fever so it was good just to get out and take winter head on.
Made it up and down some hills, passed a creek crossing and then up several more hills before finding the side trail that leads toward the cave. Thankfully Doug had a GPS with coordinates for the cave so after we got headed in the wrong direction; we took an impromptu trail toward the coordinates. After hiking through the forest in the general direction we finally came upon where the cave was supposed to be. Bad news is we could find no cave. I used my iPhone to find a picture of the entrance, and knew we were certainly not seeing it. After looking around for a while we decided to give up and head back. Since we had long lost the trail we took a short cut down the creek to see if we could intersect our path back. Knowing the only human footprints were ours we figured we would not get too lost.
Thankfully we were had only gone a short way when I looked up and saw the entrance to the cave about half way up the hill facing the creek. Made the steep climb up and took a look inside the cave. At the opening it is wide enough to drive a car in for the first 25 yards or so. After that it takes a sharp turn into a smaller opening that was too dark to venture in to. Took some pictures then made our way down the path to the creek. From there we traversed back to where the trail intersected and headed back.
Round trip it was probably 5 hours’ worth of hiking. Considering the conditions it would have been much faster without all the snow, but we got it done. After piling back in the van we headed to Bloomington to enjoy a steak dinner and a warm dry spot at Longhorn Steakhouse.
With bellies full we headed to hike two which was from the edge of Brown County State Park to the Miller cabin. We started after dark with head lamps and flashlights. Sounds kind of crazy, but it is really awesome to hike under the stars and lights glowing on fresh snow. It was roughly 4 miles to the cabin with only part of it on a trail, and part through the woods in a general direction of the cabin. The cabin itself is very comfortable, but no electricity to heat it up in a hurry. A good fire in the wood burning stove got things nice a toasty about the time we decided to call it a night.
Bad news is no once the fire went out, it got really cold in there the next morning. I hunkered down in the sleeping bag till Doug was kind enough to get the fire back started. Good man that Doug. He was even better to us when he cooked massive pancakes with sausage for breakfast. Sitting around the fire with a full stomach is a man’s delight. Must say that was a highlight of the trip.
About 1 PM we headed out for the hike back the 4 miles to the van, and then on home. All in the entire trip was one to remember and hopefully an annual winter breaker event.